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Plainfield Township special assessment districts

By Fred Lewis

Over the last few months I have found myself spending an increasing amount of time on special assessment districts. From lake weed control to lake management to private road maintenance to gypsy moth control to waste site, we have more than our fair share of special assessments.

Now, how many of you know how these came about? Why are there so many in our community? The answer to these questions are simple, because the people asked. These assessments are the result of concerned residents in a specific area, that recognize or desire to improve their situation and require everyone that benefits from the improvement to pay their fair share.

So you may ask “Why don’t they just get the improvement done and collect the monies themselves?” Fair question, but the answer is not so easy to accept. The main reason is that you can never get all people to agree on a method or purpose to improvement or change and you definitely will never get all people to agree to pay, even though they may agree that the improvement is good and possibly necessary, they just will never agree to additional taxes or, in this case, assessments. We were founded on the principal of majority rule.

It is pounded into us at a young age from our early years when mom and dad would ask us where we all wanted to go for dinner(McD’s) to our playground excursions when we would vote on kickball or dodgeball to our work environment about which project plan the group feels is best for the client, it was all centered around majority rule. Special Assessment Districts or SAD’s as we call them are controlled by the same idea.

When a majority of property owners desire to make an improvement in their area, whether it’s their road condition or lake or street lights they approach the township and request that a SAD be formed to undertake the improvement and fairly spread the costs over the improved parcels. A local government, such as a township or city, are the only “taxing” authorities that can assess(tax) a property by either special assessment or tax.

Since these only impact the properties that are affected by the improvement, a community wide vote is not appropriate, only the will of the property owners in the district. Here is where the stickler comes in. There is no requirement in the law that requires a township to undertake this project and form the SAD. Townships and local municipalities do so as a service to their constituents, but they are under no legal obligation to form a SAD or undertake the improvement. And if they chose to do so, are only acting at the request of the property owners. As such, once a SAD is formed, if the improvement is ongoing like road maintenance or lake treatment, the SAD will continue unless a majority express their desire to stop the program. Created by a majority, stopped by a majority.

The municipality receives no revenue from the SAD therefore it is of no benefit to participate other than as a service to these residents. They are difficult to form, require a lot of work in the office with direct mailings and notices and if there is no property owner group to work with, can be hard to determine effectiveness or direction, not to mention contracting, paying for and overseeing the improvement work. But, in many cases, they are the only way for a segment of a community to improve and share equitably in that improvement.

The waste site is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 10 AM through 4 PM and Sunday from 9 AM through 2 PM. We are open on Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day.

Anyone interested in assisting our Garden Club this Summer in tending the planters downtown, please contact Linda or Janet at the Hale Hardware. They are always looking for additional help.

As always if you ever have any questions, comments or concerns regarding our community please contact me. I am in the office Monday – Friday 7:30 – 4:00 at 989-728-2811 or my cell at 989-984-7073 or by email supervisor@plainfieldtwpmi.com.
Fred Lewis – Supervisor Plainfield Township

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